Health & Fitness: How to Succeed When Willpower Fails

August 2, 2012

Can you remember a time when you were eating out of control? When you weren’t actually hungry but you kept stuffing food into your face anyway?

I can… It was this past Saturday.

It was an “all you can eat” situation at an outdoor festival and I PIGGED out. I got so full and bloated that I started jokingly sticking out my stomach and asking my friends if they wanted to feel the baby kick.

Yes, I hide my shame behind humor, just like you.

Now what happened? Why was I so out of control? Was it a lack of willpower? That’s what most people think to themselves: “I just need more willpower.”

But willpower is a lie. Think about it. Do you really believe in some magical force inside of you that you can somehow conjure up to make you do the things you don’t want to do?

We do things for REASONS, not because of magical forces like “willpower.”

We have internal reasons and external reasons. External reasons are things like wanting a promotion or fearing someone’s negative opinion of you. Internal reasons are things like your values and beliefs about life.

BOTH the internal and external are important, but consider this…

Bucky Fuller (arguably one of the smartest thinkers in the world) said that “environment is stronger than willpower.” What he meant is that if the forces that surround you are pushing you in one direction, it’s extremely difficult to sustain the inner motivation to go in a different direction.

For example, if you’re trying to eat healthy and you’re surrounded by all-you-can-eat desserts and fried food, it’s going to be very difficult to stay on the healthy path.

So you want to align the external forces in your life to point you in the direction of your goals. When you do that, you almost don’t even need inner motivation. Life will move you forward naturally.

I like to call these external forces STRUCTURES.

So what happened to me on Saturday that I “lost control” of my eating choices?

I didn’t have strong structures to support me. There was no lack of structures, of course. But they were pushing me in the direction of overeating:

  • Peer structures: All around me people were eating and drinking to excess.
  • Financial structures: There was no extra cost for eating more, and no savings for eating less.
  • Linguistic structures: Phrases like “get your money’s worth” and “all you can eat” created a positive connotation for over-consumption.

Now before I make too big a deal about this, let me acknowledge that, yes, it was just one day. I don’t eat like that every day. But that’s the point.

Why don’t I eat like that every day? Partly because of my values and beliefs, yes.

But another big reason (maybe even BIGGER reason according to Bucky Fuller) is because of the structures I’ve consciously chosen to support a healthier way of life.

Here are some examples:

  • I only keep healthy foods in the house. This makes it harder to eat unhealthy because it means an extra trip out to go get the junk food.
  • I have several standard meals I love to eat that are also very healthy. I don’t have to struggle with the question “What am I going to eat?” at every meal. It’s easy to make a healthy choice.
  • I often use a “100 Days” structure where I commit to some habit or way of living for 100 days and I blog about it. It makes my goals public, so people will see me whenever I “cheat.” I can’t hide.
  • I often seek support from a coach or mentor. This is someone who can help me through the challenging times when my choices seem murky or confusing.
  • I follow proven programs and strategies (whether it’s an exercise program, dietary guidelines, or a deliberate stress-reducing practice like meditation). It’s a simple matter of following the steps, which takes a lot of the anxiety and doubt out of the experience.

Can you see how all of these structures support me in my goal to eat healthy? And how much more difficult it would be without them?

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  1. What are your favorite structures that support you in living the way you want to live?
  2. What structures tend to steer you off track and away from your goal?
  3. Where in your life are you stalled and not making the progress you want to be making?
  4. Where in your life do you feel out of control?

Email me your answers to these questions and I would be happy to suggest structures that will support you in pursuing your goals with greater ease and flow.

©2012 Curtis G. Schmitt

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The REAL Reason to Plan

August 20, 2008

Listen to a short podcast on the purpose of planning:

[ Or, download this podcast. ]

The REAL Reason to Plan

There’s a saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. So then, why plan?

Most people think the purpose of planning is to achieve the specific results that you’re planning for. And that seems to make a lot of sense. If you want a certain result, you create a plan to get it. So that must be why you plan, right?

But hasn’t it been your experience that no matter how carefully you plan for something, your actual path to your goal is at least a little different than your plan?

If that’s true, if things rarely go exactly according to plan, then that can’t be the purpose of planning. Think of that as the motivation for planning—the result you want is what motivates you to plan, but it’s not the purpose. So what is the purpose?

The primary purpose for creating a plan is so that when the unexpected happens—when something new comes up—you can refer to that plan to help you make the best choice possible.

The real value and advantage to having a plan is that it gives you the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and unexpected events.

For example, you create a plan for the week. It includes all of your appointments and top priorities and tasks for the week. At 11 AM on Tuesday, your boss tells you to drop everything to prepare a report for her by the end of the day. Dealing with that task now becomes your new top priority.

Because you already had a plan for the week, you can make informed and intelligent choices quickly about what to postpone, what to reschedule, and what to delegate so that you can deal with your changing priorities. Your plan empowers you to deal with those changes.

Imagine you didn’t have a plan for the week and your boss gave you that task. You’d be trying to juggle all of your existing appointments and priorities and tasks in your head as you dealt with this new emergency.

At best you’d feel stressed out. That new task would create a ripple effect in your brain as you tried to mentally make all of those adjustments.

At worst, your brain would shut down, mentally dropping everything but the new task. You’d start missing appointments, missing deadlines. Where’s the power in that?

Understand that time is fixed—we all have 24 hours a day, no more and no less. Your power is not in how much time you have. Your power is in how effectively you choose to use your time. And planning enhances your power to choose by giving you the context you need to figure out what to do when things change.

So let me repeat: The primary purpose for creating a plan is so that when the unexpected happens, you have the information you need to make the best choices possible.

©2008 Curtis G. Schmitt

Productive Planning: From Stress to Success

Learn a 6-step process that will make you an expert at completing your top priorities…no matter what else is thrown at you during your day. To find out more about this powerful teleclass, visit http://www.TurnOnToLife.com/teleclass/productive_planning.html


Goal Setting – Make SMART Goals SMARTER, Part 2

August 4, 2008

Last week I gave two examples illustrating how powerful it is to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal technique to clarify your goals and explode your productivity. [Download a free SMART Goals worksheet here.] But that technique alone does not directly address the daily pursuit of your goals — that is, how do you make sure you do what needs to be done each day to achieve your goals?

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